10 Tips for a Great First Practice of the Season

A new volleyball season is upon us, and I’m sure many of us are heading into our first week back on the court with gusto and optimism. But there’s a lot of pressure on us all to perform at the highest level, so we all want to make sure we show up prepared!

Having gone through the whole “new season” thing QUITE a few times, here are my own personal tips for conducting a GREAT first practice of the year.

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Jousting in Volleyball

You know when those guys on horses are charging at each other with those big sticks and try to knock the other one off the horse first? Well, we do that in volleyball too!

Of course, there are no horses involved, and we really shouldn’t be making contact with the other player. Jousting in volleyball is when a ball is in that weird gray zone of “is it coming over the net, is it not?” 

Ideally in his situation, your player will jump up to hit/block the ball instead of just stand there are and watch it drop (even if it’s on the other side of the net! We still want to be ready).

And I pity the fool who stands and watches while the opposing team goes up to smack it, almost certainly winning the point unchallenged.

Let’s breakdown a joust, shall we?

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1 Touch - 2 Touch- 3 Touch - Columbus

Normally I’m all for keeping drill names short and sweet, but sometimes a long descriptive name helps players remember a drill better (and it makes me laugh hearing them repeat it).

But that’s not WHY I like 1 touch, 2 touch, 3 touch, Columbus (sort of a “left foot, left foot, left foot, right” ring to it, no?). I like this drill because it gets my players MOVING, and it helps players who are new to the concept of “pass-set-hit” transition from “bump ball.” 

For you new coaches, bump ball is an affectionate name for teams who pass the ball back and forth over the net without trying to do anything other than pass it back over. This is NOT what we want! We want to (despite losses and frustration with the learning process) teach our teams to use all three hits as early as they can successfully do so.

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Opinion: Two Challenges to Promoting Volleyball Programs

I’m going to venture into a space I don’t often occupy, and that is sharing my opinion on macro volleyball topics. Sure, I’ll debate what “ready position” actually means and can have a long discussion with you about substitution strategy, but those are just a part of the game!

Here I want to discuss two of the biggest challenges I believe volleyball programs face in their quest to getting more booties in the stands, and more people INTERESTED in volleyball.

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5 Ways to Honor Seniors on Senior Night

If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you that Senior Night is a big deal. 

Traditionally the final home match of a volleyball season, Senior Night carries significance not only for your senior players, but for parents, the coaching staff, and for the rest of your program as well.

With volleyball being a fall sport in most areas in the US, this might also be on of the first times it really hits your players that they’re graduating and leaving high school life. Practically every senior night in my memory (either as a coach or as a player) involves tears.

Lots and lots of tears.

So what’s a coach to do to honor their seniors the right way? You want to make sure that they feel valued by the school and community, but let’s be real… we also have a budget to follow. Here are five ideas for you to consider if they are right for your program. Use them all, or combine them in a new way!

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Switch Up Practice Tonight: Include Your Defense in Your Offense

For many of you, the middle of the season is upon on (or fast approaching), and with that, boredom can start to set in. The number of new drills and concepts which you’re teaching your team has probably dropped, and not only is your team feeling a lack of fresh energy, but you’re feeling it too!

This part of the season is my least and most favorite. When the monotony kicks in, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do! BUT! When you finally think of a fresh take on a drill or come to practice set on pepping things up, that’s when the magic happens.

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Stop The Shanks! 4 Passing Tips To Reduce Errors for Beginner Volleyball Players

Passing is a skill which is unique to volleyball. There is no other sport where you run after a ball and use your forearms to pop the ball up in the air! There’s no catching, throwing, or (usually) kicking here, and that makes the concept of passing the ball entirely new to first time volleyball players. 

Even players with a few seasons under their belt can struggle to pass to target consistently. That’s why I’m going to give you 4 tips to use in practice to reduce the number of shanked balls (you know, those ones that go flying backwards into the the stands) and improve your team’s overall passing skill.

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Teaching Your Setter To Set Along The Net, Not To The Hitter!

There are certain drills you run at practice throughout the season because they get your team moving, cheering, and they’re relatively easy and fun… 

This is not one of those drills.

So, why would you want to read more? Because! This is a drill you only need to do ONCE and you’ll have a new team. This is a drill that inspires those *click* moments that I live for as a coach.

This drill is particularly effective at teaching young setters (think 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade) how to set along the net, instead of to the hitters. 

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Pre-Made Practice Plan: Serve Receive and Using Three Hits

Last night I had practice and thought it went.... great! Going into it though, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. See, I had run a practice with this team last week, and my plan didn't go as I expected. I was expecting a group of players who didn't know each other very well, and that was NOT what I got. Here's what caught me off guard:

  • All loud and friendly (except two quiet players),

  • Already established friend group (again, except for the two),

  • Fundamental skills were decent, but in a game setting, everything went out the window, and

  • A lack of understanding of how to use all three hits. It was like watching tennis!

I think this is something you'll see in a school setting more often than a club setting, just because in a school they all see each other every day, and in club, they usually come from different schools. 

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“Hitting Survivor” Tricks Your Players Into Being Better Hitters and Passers!

Think back to the mid/late 2000’s, when Survivor was the biggest TV show out there (at least, it dominated the screen in our house every Thursday night)! Essentially, there was a large group of people who had to face challenges and, one by one, they were voted off. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way, and tons of drama. 

OK, using those concepts, I’m going to teach you a volleyball game using these same principles! (Except the drama part… I’d say there’s humor, but no drama lol).

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Hit The Spot – Easy Serving Game To Learn Zones on the Volleyball Court

Learning how to serve to zones on a volleyball court can be intimidating for young players. In youth volleyball and middle school volleyball, often times the girls are working on just getting the ball over with lots of power! They might not feel ready to start working on serving to zones yet, but that is why we have fun games! To make it less intimidating!

Hit The Spot is a fun team drill, meaning there’s less overall pressure on the individual, but at the same time, there’s motivation to get their serve to the right spot. Players who have are ready to start serving to zones will enjoy this game as well, because they will often carry their team and feel a sense of pride in their serving.

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High Rep Serve Receive Drill

How many times have you gotten STUCK in a bad serve receive rotation? Either one of your players is having an off-day, or the server on the other team is just picking you apart. No matter what the reason, it stinks to be stuck there. Waiting, praying that the other team will just miss their serve and let you move on! Instead of trying the tactic of "wait and see," switch to being proactive!

This high rep serve receive drill will help your team understand the options they have when they can't get out of a certain serve receive rotation. Even better, if you coach them through it correctly, they'll often times make the change before you even realize it's time to switch things up!

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Coaching Volleyball: A Survival Guide for Your First Season

Coaching volleyball is about MORE than just running the best drills at practice! If this is your first time coaching volleyball, start here!

When you step on the court, you’re surrounded by young athletes with TONS of potential who are ready to listen to every word you have to say. Over the course of a season you share a ton of laughs, encourage them to dip deep and overcome challenges, and watch them grow in a sport you both love.

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Is Your Team Bad at Communication? Try These 3 Techniques!

How many times have you heard these instructions at a match or tournament… “Talk!” “Call the ball!” “Communicate!” Once in a while, this is fine. But when communication seems to be a nagging issue, there’s likely a root cause that you need to address.

Let's discuss how to improve communication for your volleyball team, shall we?

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Easy Passing Drill: Shuttle Passing

If you're looking for an easy passing drill you can run at your next volleyball practice, try shuttle passing! 

Shuttle passing is great for teams of all ages, and can be altered to change the level of difficulty for your team in particular! I've run this drill with 2nd and 3rd graders, and with high school teams as well. Once you understand the basic concept, you'll be able to make adjustments to the drill, making it a great ball control warm-up for your team!

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How to Run a Private Lesson for Volleyball (Plus Free Plan!)

Have you thought about offering private lessons, but you're not sure where to start? The first time I ran private lessons, I really really REALLY over-prepared, because I wasn't sure what was going to happen. My club had plugged me into some timeslots and I was supposed to create lessons after a quick consult with the player (most of whom I did not know) and if you know me at all, you know I'm a planner.

So this was WAY outside of my comfort zone! Now I've been offering private lessons off and on for two years now, but they've really started to pick up this summer! This is due to a few factors (I'm settling into a community, I've interacted with a large number of players through camps and clinics, and my players have been generally successful).

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The Power of Games

When you are training a group of players to be elite athletes it can seem like spending time playing games at practice is a waste of time. What we sometimes forget as coaches is that fun is a major component of the learning process.Thinking back on my time as a player I first remember running around laughing with my teammates and playing fun games. Yes, I remember playing hard, training, and running through drills, but the most vivid memories are from when I was playing "deadfish," "the downball game," and more.

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